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New pile driver machine helps streamline solar panel installations

Underscores the commitment by Vermeer in support of alternative energy sources


In 2012, Vermeer will introduce a new pile driver machine designed primarily to assist with the often-challenging installation of solar panel configurations. The new PD10 pile driver will help make installing the posts that secure the solar panels more efficient, productive and, most importantly, exact. The freestanding machine utilizes an inclinometer with auto-plumb and laser-controlled post-depth-control feature to help ensure that every post is installed to exacting specifications.
“As a global leader of construction equipment, Vermeer has a unique opportunity to champion the advancement of alternative energy sources,” says Tony Briggs, director of underground solutions for Vermeer. “The pile driver machine is an innovative solution developed for the photovoltaic (PV) solar energy category, and represents the latest of several equipment innovations designed to assist in a variety of installation functions across a wide range of alternative energy solutions.”
Thanks to falling prices in the technology and gains in efficiency, solar energy use has surged approximately 20 percent over the past 15 years while future demand for electricity is accelerating the need to increase generation capacity. While there are several solar panel applications and configurations, among the most widely used is ground-mounted. On large
Most ground-mounted solar power systems consist of solar panels held in place by racks or frames, attached to ground-based mounting supports. These pole mounts — similar to steel posts — are anywhere from 7 to 18 feet (2.4 to 5.5 m) long (or longer) and generally driven directly into the ground. Pole mounts need to be driven into the ground to precise levels depending on soil type and stability, weather conditions (mostly wind) and type (either fixed or tracking) to maximize efficiency and minimize shadow. On large communication solar farms as many as three million posts may be needed.
“The posts are the stabilizing foundation of ground-mounted solar panel systems,” Briggs says. “Depending on the terrain and ground conditions at the site, installers may encounter challenges, even frustration, when installing the poles. Precision is a must, and the Vermeer PD10 will help alleviate much of the guesswork with installing such a large number of posts at any given site.”
The PD10 pile driver machine joins an impressive list of other Vermeer equipment innovation “firsts” targeted for alternative energy markets. In 2009 Vermeer developed the CL80, a cable laying attachment for its track trenchers designed to streamline the collection of cables that connects the many turbines of a wind farm, and transmits generated energy on to substations. The attachment separates and sorts the series of five cables, then installs them in the desired triangular configuration within the trench, saving numerous man-hours and labor.
Vermeer later introduced the D20x22FX Series II Navigator ® flex-angle horizontal directional drill (HDD) — an industry first — to assist contractors with loop installations for geothermal ground sourced heat pump systems. The D20x22FX flex-angle drill allows contractors to drill at any specific entry point ranging from 18 to 90 degrees, enabling it to complete horizontal, vertical and steep-angle projects with a single machine.
“Vermeer is proud of the new product innovations we’ve developed that help make alternative energy installations more efficient and cost-effective for our customers, and, at the same time, help them expand their service offerings,” Briggs says.